What's scientific about consensus?

I'm glad to see evidence that the scientific method is alive and well, at least in Japan:

Japanese scientists have made a dramatic break with the UN and Western-backed hypothesis of climate change in a new report from its Energy Commission.

Three of the five researchers disagree with the UN's IPCC view that recent warming is primarily the consequence of man-made industrial emissions of greenhouse gases. Remarkably, the subtle and nuanced language typical in such reports has been set aside.

One of the five contributors compares computer climate modelling to ancient astrology. Others castigate the paucity of the US ground temperature data set used to support the hypothesis, and declare that the unambiguous warming trend from the mid-part of the 20th Century has ceased.

The report by Japan Society of Energy and Resources (JSER) is astonishing rebuke to international pressure, and a vote of confidence in Japan's native marine and astronomical research. Publicly-funded science in the West uniformly backs the hypothesis that industrial influence is primarily responsible for climate change, although fissures have appeared recently. Only one of the five top Japanese scientists commissioned here concurs with the man-made global warming hypothesis.

I'd like to see less "scientific consensus" (an oxymoron, IMO) and a few more fissures, before the economy is irreparably ruined. (As I've said, I'd also like to see the Precautionary Principle applied to the economy. And even national defense....)

When I was a kid, I used to respect scientists a lot more than I do now, and I was taught that the scientific method was based on skepticism, in much the same way as explained here:

In policy making, especially in a political arena, consensus building is a key ingredient. In attempts to make science relevant and useful, the politics of democracy tend to promote, even in some cases demand "scientific consensus." However, as a "community of belief" develops, skepticism is no longer regarded as a virtue. In a civilization that is founded on science, this is an unfortunate state of affairs and detrimental to our future.

In order to appreciate this concern, it is necessary to revisit the central role of skepticism in science. Let us start with a dictionary definition of skepticism. Webster's Dictionary defines skepticism as: "A critical attitude towards any theory, statement, experiment, or phenomenon, doubting the certainty of all things until adequate proof has been produced; the scientific spirit." The Greek root of skepticism is identified as "skepticos", which means "thoughtful, inquiring."

Well, that was then. Any scientist who publicly questions Global Warming today will become a renegade, lose funding, and will be lucky is he isn't called a Holocaust Denier and threatened with a Nuremberg-style tribunal.

For those who are into scientific nostalgia, the above continues, with gems like these:

For centuries, science has been founded on well-established methods of scientific investigation, which include recognition that "A scientific theory must be tentative and always subject to revision or abandonment in light of facts that are inconsistent with, or falsify, the theory. A theory that is by its own terms dogmatic, absolutist and never subject to revision is not a scientific theory" (Judge William R. Overton, in Science, 1982). Thus, a basic tenet of science is for scientists to posit and test hypotheses and theories. Scientific progress is made by accepting or rejecting hypotheses at specified levels of confidence, thus embodying skepticism in the heart of scientific methodology.
Ah the good old days.

Today, science in the West has (at least in the context of Global Warming) been replaced with the crassest form of political activism.

It's an ironic sign of decadence that the Japanese are pulling ahead.


MORE: I did not mean to imply that there were no American scientists who dare to question Global Warming theory. Here's Will Happer, Cyrus Fogg Bracket Professor of Physics at Princeton University:

We are told that only a few flat-earthers still have any doubt about the calamitous effects of continued CO2 emissions. There are a number of answers to this assertion.

First, what is correct in science is not determined by consensus but by experiment and observations. Historically, the consensus is often wrong, and I just mentioned the incorrect consensus of modelers about the age of the earth and the sun. During the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 in Philadelphia the medical consensus was that you could cure almost anything by bleeding the patient. Benjamin Rush, George Washington's Surgeon General during the War of Independence, and a brave man, stayed in Philadelphia throughout the yellow fever epidemic. He worked tirelessly to save the stricken by bleeding them, the consensus treatment of the day. A few cautious observers noticed that you were more likely to survive the yellow fever without the services of the great man. But Dr. Rush had plenty of high level-friends and he was backed up by the self-evident consensus, so he went ahead with his ministrations. In summary, a consensus is often wrong.

Secondly, I do not think there is a consensus about an impending climate crisis. I personally certainly don't believe we are facing a crisis unless we create one for ourselves, as Benjamin Rush did by bleeding his patients. Many others, wiser than I am, share my view. The number of those with the courage to speak out is growing. There may be an illusion of consensus. Like the temperance movement one hundred years ago the climate-catastrophe movement has enlisted the mass media, the leadership of scientific societies, the trustees of charitable foundations, and many other influential people to their cause. Just as editorials used to fulminate about the slippery path to hell behind the tavern door, hysterical op-ed's lecture us today about the impending end of the planet and the need to stop climate change with bold political action. Many distinguished scientific journals now have editors who further the agenda of climate-change alarmism. Research papers with scientific findings contrary to the dogma of climate calamity are rejected by reviewers, many of whom fear that their research funding will be cut if any doubt is cast on the coming climate catastrophe. Speaking of the Romans, then invading Scotland in the year 83, the great Scottish chieftain Calgacus is quoted as saying "They make a desert and call it peace." If you have the power to stifle dissent, you can indeed create the illusion of peace or consensus. The Romans have made impressive inroads into climate science. Certainly, it is a bit unnerving to read statements of Dr. James Hansen in the Congressional Record that climate skeptics are guilty of "high crimes against humanity and nature."

Even elementary school teachers and writers of children's books are enlisted to terrify our children and to promote the idea of impending climate doom. Having observed the education of many children, including my own, I am not sure how effective the effort will be. Many children seem to do just the opposite of what they are taught. Nevertheless, children should not be force-fed propaganda, masquerading as science. ...

Read it all.

Sometimes, academic tenure is a good thing.

posted by Eric at 07:43 PM | Comments (8)

Tea for tyranny?

While I'm not about to go to any demonstrations (especially when it's in the teens), I think the Tea Party movement (that Glenn Reynolds covers in a number of posts) provides a much-needed reminder of two things:

  • 1. This country was founded in opposition to tyranny.
  • 2. The United States government is now galloping towards tyranny.
  • While high taxes alone might not constitute tyranny, when the ruling classes behave as if they are exempt from the rules they impose on others, that is tyranny of the classical variety.

    Ditto the idea that it's fine for the ruling classes to have guns, but not the ordinary people.

    The damned government ruling class people should take the Tea Party movement as an early warning sign.

    Americans have a long history of not tolerating tyranny.

    Trouble can start over this stuff.

    Speaking of early warning signs, I enjoyed this one from Ed Driscoll that Glenn linked earlier:


    Only because the sanctimonious left is so fond of accusing people of being selfish, I thought I'd change it a little, to make it, you know, more altruistic.


    Reminds me of my favorite slogan from the 90s....


    posted by Eric at 11:52 AM | Comments (11)

    How I (barely) managed to avoid tantrums

    I was quite honored to be invited to attend CPAC In Washington as a Pajamas Media blogger, but alas! The timing of my trip prevented me from attending (especially the timing of my return to Michigan, where things had piled up after a three-month absence). It was simply not logistically feasible for me to return home and then immediately leave.

    A shame, really, because I am a fervent believer in dialogue, and that includes dialogue with ideologues. CPAC, of course, is not known to suffer from a shortage of conservative ideologues. I'm hardly a conservative ideologue, although my thinking tends to put me more on the conservative than liberal "side." But as I've discussed in countless posts, I have a serious problem with being on "sides," not only because I don't fit neatly, but because once you're identified as being on (or even tilting towards) a side, the louder and shriller voices will inevitably tell you how and what you are to think, and if they think you are wrong, they'll say you belong to (or threaten to relegate you to) "the other side!" To the left, I'm at the very least "politically unreliable," a "conservative," or even a right wing nut. One difference between the right and the left is that the right tends to be much more polite. They'll say the party would be better off without all the "RINOs" but they're not as personally insulting on an individual level, even in the face of strong disagreements.

    Still, I have a problem listening to people on either side who are steeped in echo chamber stuff, and when they get together they egg each other on, and if you sit there and say nothing, pretty soon they'll just assume you agree. I find that a pain in the ass, as I don't enjoy arguing with people, but OTOH I don't enjoy listening silently to ideological stuff with which I disagree. It's no more fun hearing someone scream about how Dick Cheney belongs in prison than it is hearing someone scream about how Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Similarly, the anti-white or anti-Israel bigotry on the left is about as fun to listen to as some of the anti-gay or anti-Mexican bigotry on the right.

    Glenn Reynolds' link to Rick Moran (who is there at CPAC) made me feel less guilty for not being able to make it to CPAC. Reading Rick's observations, I found myelf oddly reassured that it was probably just as well that I was missing, well, precisely what I suspected I was missing:

    ...conservatism has gone off the rails, becoming in some respects a parody of itself. A philosophy that is all about honoring and conserving tradition while allowing for change that buttresses and supports important aspects of the past, has been hijacked by ideologues who brook no deviation from a dogma that limits rather than expands human freedom. Conservatism has become loud, obnoxious, closed-minded, and puerile, while its classical tradition of tolerance and hard-headed rationalism has been abandoned in favor of emotional jags and a vicious parochialism that eschews debate for "litmus tests" on ideological purity.
    Except I'd never say something like that to their faces. I'd have a silent tantrum, and I'd try to avoid them in the future.

    Of course, my throwing a silent tantrum in the privacy of my own home won't stop people who believe in throwing loud ideological tantrums.

    Until conservatives can practice some painful introspection, looking with a self-critical eye at the reasons for the debacles of 2006 and 2008, most in the movement will continue to delude themselves that simply reaffirming conservative love of small government, low taxes, and less regulation will be enough to convince a majority of Americans that they recognize their shortcomings and have changed their tune. There must be a reckoning with those who violate the very nature of conservatism by obstinately adhering to exclusionary, anti-intellectual precepts that have thrown classical conservatism over in favor of ranting, ideological tantrums.
    Personally, I find it a bit embarrassing to find myself in the same camp with tantrum throwers who think conservatism means combating the evils of homosexuality, marijuana, condoms, pornography, and even the theory of evolution (and that the term "Christian" should be used to describe only fundamentalist Christians.)

    It's very convenient that the mainstream media do all they can to promote the definition of conservatism that the tantrum throwers propound.

    Almost makes me want to throw a tantrum.

    MORE: Rick is of course being savaged in the comments by conservatives, who call his essay an "ideological tantrum," and (by a commenter calling him "call him "Rick Moron") "a fetid rant may serve your apoplectic, race-bating, Bush hating lefties."

    Gee, I've been reading Rick a long time and I never knew the apoplectic, race-bating, Bush hating lefties were "his."

    Maybe I hould rethink what I said about how conservatives are "not as personally insulting on an individual level..."

    posted by Eric at 12:48 PM | Comments (13)

    On The Mend
    Economic Indicators

    Purchasing Magazine is taking a look at leading economic indicators. And as you can see by the chart above it looks like the worst is behind us. The upswing has not yet started but the rate of fall appears to be declining. The actual turn around is likely to be about six to nine months ahead. Baring further government interference in the economy of course.
    While much of the data about the U.S. economy shows little cause for optimism, at least three leading economic indicators have trended up in the past two months, providing early signs that the economy may have hit bottom.

    Most notably, Purchasingdata.com's Business Conditions Index has trended up for the past two months. The index, which is based on a broad survey of purchasing managers and procurement executives, hit a low of 23.9 in December but has since increased to 26.2 in January and 27.9 in February. As a diffusion index, the reading of 27.9 still indicates that business conditions are far from growing (growth is indicated when the index passes 50), but the trend is providing some possible indications that buyers think business is improving slightly.

    Also of note, Purchasingdata.com's Buying Plans Index has also risen steadily since December from 25.3 to 28.7 in the latest survey this month. This indicates that buyers are planning to increase orders after a long decline in buying plans dating back to January 2008.

    Ah yes. Supply and demand are coming back into balance. Which is a very good thing.

    And what does our leading government expert on the economy have to say? Glad you asked.

    This outlook for economic activity is subject to considerable uncertainty, and I believe that, overall, the downside risks probably outweigh those on the upside. One risk arises from the global nature of the slowdown, which could adversely affect U.S. exports and financial conditions to an even greater degree than currently expected. Another risk derives from the destructive power of the so-called adverse feedback loop, in which weakening economic and financial conditions become mutually reinforcing. To break the adverse feedback loop, it is essential that we continue to complement fiscal stimulus with strong government action to stabilize financial institutions and financial markets. If actions taken by the Administration, the Congress, and the Federal Reserve are successful in restoring some measure of financial stability--and only if that is the case, in my view--there is a reasonable prospect that the current recession will end in 2009 and that 2010 will be a year of recovery. If financial conditions improve, the economy will be increasingly supported by fiscal and monetary stimulus, the salutary effects of the steep decline in energy prices since last summer, and the better alignment of business inventories and final sales, as well as the increased availability of credit.
    And what does he mean exactly by fiscal and economic stimulus? He means the government is pumping in a lot of dollars into the economy in two ways. One by printing money and the other by taking money out of the real economy and giving it to companies favored by the government. The short version: government is strangling winners and backing losers. And the likely net result of all this stimulation? Inflation. And what is inflation really? A theft from our future. Lovely. Just lovely.

    As per usual the losers in Congress have passed a stimulus bill about 6 months before the economy starts to seriously rebound. Trillions wasted for something that was bound to happen any way. Let your Government and especially your Congress Critter know how you feel about it.

    House of Representatives

    The Senate

    The President

    And if you would like to know more about economic indicators have a look at The Secrets of Economic Indicators.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:53 AM | Comments (2)

    the birds and the bats

    One of the problems I have with the fundamentalist approach to religion is the tendency to insist on the literal interpretation of written words, often without regard to context.

    Yet on the other hand (in a paradox that never made much sense to me), fundamentalists will often gratuitously supply context which is otherwise missing from the text. A good example is the story of Sodom, from which derives the word sodomy. Two angels (whose sex is unstated in the Bible) were sent by God to Lot's house, and while there they were threatened by an angry mob of local villagers who tried to break down the door in order to commit angel rape, and who would have succeeded had God not blinded them. Now, if we assume the sex of the angels was male, that would have been homosexual rape, just as if they had been female, that would have been heterosexual rape. Yet the story is widely interpreted as condemning all homosexual conduct. Why? Had the threatened angels been female, would anyone see the story as a condemnation of all heterosexual conduct? But despite these problems, out of this story the word "sodomy" was manufactured by medieval clerics as a synonym -- not for angel rape, not for ordinary rape, and not even for homosexual rape, but for ordinary homosexual acts. Taking into account medieval prejudices, it is certainly understandable how this might have happened, but to call it a literal interpretation of the Bible is simply at odds with the words that are there.

    The story of Sodom is one of the many reasons I have trouble seeing fundamentalism as accurate biblical literalism, despite the frequent claim that all they are doing is following the exact word of God.

    The problem there is what words? Whose or which translation is most favored by God?

    Leviticus 18:22 appears to condemn the lying with a man as with a woman, but there is no agreement as to what the original Hebrew words (or the Greek words) meant, or the context.

    Speaking of Leviticus, I stumbled onto a fascinating passage which made me wonder about the correct interpretation of the simple word "bird":

    Leviticus 11:13-20 (New International Version)

    Unclean and Detested bird:

    13 "These are the "BIRDS" you are to detest and not eat because they are detestable: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, 14 the red kite, any kind of black kite, 15 any kind of raven, 16 the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, 17 the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, 18 the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, 19 the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat, 20 " 'All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be detestable to you.

    Does God think bats are birds? Or was something lost in translation? How much any of this really should matter is of course a good question, but even posing such a question can lead to a charge of religious insensitivity in some quarters.

    While I believe in God, because I don't think God consists of text I don't lose much sleep over what the literal meaning of repeatedly translated words. Otherwise, I might be worried that God might think our national symbol is, as the passage says, detestable.

    (Probably best not to let religious nuts like Reverend Wright know....)

    posted by Eric at 11:00 AM | Comments (16)

    In the privacy of your own bedroom?

    I hate to be a bore, and I have no idea whether readers enjoy reading my libertarianish, anti-government kvetchings, which tend to be endlessly expansive simply because the government bureaucracy grows endlessly more intrusive.

    Anyway, consider yourselves warned. The fact is, I hate government butting into people's lives, and as long as I have this blog and the ability to complain, complain I will.

    A close friend (whose name and location will remain nameless, as he's an apolitical artist who does not want more bureaucratic trouble than he already has) rents a unit in a small building which he has done much to lovingly restore. The rent is dirt cheap, because the place was a total wreck when he moved in, and the landlord realizes how lucky he is to have this very talented artisan living there. The other units are also rented by artist types, and all have benefited tremendously from the low rents, and my friend's repairs.

    The problem, of course, is the city government. Now that the place has been transformed from a slumlord eyesore to a very cool place, the same building and fire inspectors who ignored it when it could have been condemned have descended on the building like predatory jackals. It's as if some people in high places want the building torn down, or else think slum properties should remain slum properties until torn down by developers. (Precisely the pattern in much of the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.)

    After nitpicking to death over code violations none of the tenants had complained about, the building inspectors then sent in the fire marshal who demanded that the landlord remove ("unsafe") security bars from windows and cut down every tree on a charming old property. This outraged the tenants, because it's a high crime neighborhood and they liked the bars (the old kind you can't buy anymore), and the trees looked pretty, and yielded shade and avocados. Now there are ugly stumps, and the building gets much hotter in the resultant direct sunlight. The tenants were very upset (with one reduced to tears) and naturally, the landlord did not want to do any of this. Never mind that the city has an official policy of "preserving trees" and people can be arrested for illegal tree removal; this is the fire marshall!

    What kind of government can come in and mess with a perfectly harmonious, working landlord-tenant business relationship built on mutual consent?

    As if that wasn't bad enough, what outraged me the most was that the fire marshal demanded that my friend remove his large (120 gallon) aquarium from his bedroom! Apparently, the concern is that my friend might have trouble getting out in the event of fire, because the aquarium is in front of the window. Never mind that the apartment is a one-bedroom ground floor unit, never mind that the aquarium is full of water and in the event of an emergency it could easily be smashed, allowing easy access to the window and dumping a large amount of water (hardly a flammable substance).

    That an aquarium in a bedroom can be considered the legitimate business of the government pushes all my libertarian buttons.

    Whatever happened to the idea of keeping government out of the bedroom, anyway? Is the rule, like, it's OK to screw to your heart's content and expose yourself to whatever dangerous diseases you want, but God forbid that you have too big a fish tank!

    Speaking of bedrooms, what a lot of people tend to forget in these situations is that there's still such a thing as the Fourth Amendment, and there's no exception for certain busybodies. Just as you don't have to allow the police into your bedroom without a warrant, barring "exigent circumstances," the same applies to fire inspectors in your bedroom.

    I know it's an old rant, but when your home is no longer your castle, then government has become the enemy.

    posted by Eric at 02:59 PM | Comments (9)

    Happy Fat Tuesday!

    I went out earlier to a Mardi Gras celebration in which I was given the usual Mardi Gras beads.

    I'm not enough of a partier to wear such things for an entire evening. On the other hand, the beads brought out the party animal in Coco, who as you can see, has partied heavily, but is always ready for more!


    posted by Eric at 10:28 PM | Comments (5)

    TARP Funnies

    Clayton Cramer has an absolutely hilarious view of the TARP fiasco. Click on the Click here thingy.

    An interesting story on how that came to be where it is. My #2 son sent it in an e-mail with the subject line "This is amusing". And I had to tell him: yes it is. So I sent it around to the usual suspects and Clayton was kind enough to put it up.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:36 PM | Comments (3)

    Do I have to upgrade to the fix to the patch that's fixing to bug my fix?

    I've never liked Adobe's "free" pdf reader, as it has hung my computer more times than any other single software glitch. Many times I've been frozen up and had to do a hard reboot simply because I've tried to open pdf files which failed.

    I've been scolded repeatedly for not "upgrading" to the "latest version" as I should ("latest" versions are an unending computer hassle, of course), but in light of the latest news, I'm beginning to think I should just try to do without pdf files entirely:

    A dangerous and unpatched vulnerability in Adobe's PDF-reading software has been around a lot longer than previously realized.

    The bug, first reported late last week, has caused concern because it is easy to exploit and it is not expected to be patched by Adobe for several weeks. Symantec told Adobe about the flaw, which lies in the Acrobat and Reader software, on Feb. 12, but on Monday security vendor Sourcefire said that an analysis of its database of malicious software shows that attackers have actually been using the attack for more than six weeks.

    Sourcefire has found samples dating back to Jan. 9, said Matt Watchinski, Sourcefire's senior director of vulnerability research.

    To date, the bug has been used in small-scale attacks against specially targeted individuals. Symantec says it has tracked only 100 attacks, but attacks have been increasing as attack code that exploits the flaw has been made public. The bug affects both Mac and Windows users.

    Well, at least this time my Mac friends won't be able to smugly say "I TOLD YOU SO!" and brag about how they "no longer have to worry" about viruses.

    I have to marvel, though, over human ingenuity. That so many people would be so dedicated to annoying total strangers by discovering new ways of intruding into their lives never ceases to amaze me.

    But I guess things could be worse. At least these hackers aren't going out and getting government jobs....

    posted by Eric at 09:36 AM | Comments (7)

    Avoid Accidents - Smoke Pot

    Yeah. Of course. That is ridiculous.Except it may be true.

    There is sufficient and consistent evidence that alcohol use is a causal risk factor for injury. For cannabis use, however, there is conflicting evidence; a detrimental dose-response effect of cannabis use on psychomotor and other relevant skills has been found in experimental laboratory studies, while a protective effect of cannabis use has also been found in epidemiological studies.
    Isn't that funny. And unexpected.
    The most surprising result of our study was the inverse relationship between cannabis us and injury. Possible explanations and underlying mechanisms, such as use in safer environments or more compensatory behavior among cannabis users, were discussed.
    In these trying economic times I think this sort of research ought to be discouraged. With fewer accidents there will be significant parts of the economy that will be impacted. Doctors, hospitals, personal injury lawyers. So do your part. Get drunk and have an accident. There are people counting on you.

    And legalization? Don't even think about it. It would put millions out of work.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:29 AM | Comments (1)

    Support your local dinosaur!
    And fight the asteroid threat!

    I have long considered the daily newspaper to be one of the hallmarks of civilized society. I say this despite my innumerable disagreements and complaints about slanted stories, editorials masquerading as "news reports," and biased or dishonest reporting (or deliberate non-reporting, which is even worse). But biased or not, daily newspapers provide at least a common cultural denominator which tend to tie an area together, the way a college student newspaper might.

    So I am very sorry to see that the owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News has filed for bankruptcy protection:

    Philadelphia Newspapers L.L.C., which owns The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com, filed for bankruptcy protection yesterday in a bid to restructure its $390 million in debt load.

    The company, bought by a group of Philadelphia-area investors for $562 million in 2006, said the voluntary Chapter 11 filing would not interrupt its daily operations.

    "This restructuring is focused solely on our debt, not our operations," chief executive officer Brian P. Tierney, who led the group that provided about $150 million of the purchase price three years ago, said in a news release.

    "Our operations are sound and profitable," said Tierney, referring to operating profits before interest and certain other costs.

    The financial burden from an advertising downturn, rising costs for newsprint, and the migration of readers to the Internet caused Philadelphia Newspapers to fall out of compliance with its loan agreements last year. The same conditions have devastated the broadcast industry.

    There you go.

    migration of readers to the Internet

    Well, all I can say is don't blame me. I not only used to read the Inquirer avidly, but I subscribed for many years, and as longtime readers know, I was a tireless linker of Inquirer articles. Assuming that a certain percentage of readers click on the links, that means I did more than my part to increased the Inquirer's online visibility -- especially to out-of-the-area readers who might have otherwise never read it.

    Of course, the Inquirer is not alone:

    The Philadelphia Newspapers filing follows last month's bankruptcy filing by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Journal Register Co., based in Yardley and the publisher of a number of local daily and weekly newspapers, filed for bankruptcy Saturday. Just last week, the publicly traded New York Times Co. suspended its dividend to cope with the economic downturn.
    As to how much of this results from free news on the Internet, I don't know. How many non-subscribers are there who read the Inquirer online in order to save money? I've speculated before that growing illiteracy might be playing a larger role than is commonly acknowledged, and over the decades I've seen the Inquirer's style and content degenerate in countless ways.

    When I discussed this issue several years ago, I linked a Heartland Institute piece titled "Declining Literacy a Threat to Newspapers" which analogized the illiteracy threat to asteroids (and newspapers to the clueless dinosaurs who were done in):

    U.S. newspapers have a life-or-death interest in schoolchildren being taught how to read and becoming motivated to read regularly.

    The trends are not encouraging--for literacy or for newspapers. National Assessment of Educational Progress reading scores for fourth-graders have not budged off dreadful over the past decade. Poor and minority children have fallen even further behind, despite a federal expenditure of $125 billion over 25 years that was supposed to narrow the gap.

    Perhaps even more chilling was an analysis done by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

    Among 18 industrialized nations, OECD found, the United States ranked dead last in the literacy of 16- to 25-year-old high school graduates who did not go on to further study. Six in 10 of the high school graduates read below a level considered minimally necessary to cope with "the complex demands of modern life."

    It hasn't always been that way. An OECD analyst noted that 30 years ago, the United States was the "undisputed leader" in educating its people. Now, it's the literacy laggard among developed nations.

    Recent data on newspaper readership add further cause for concern.

    I'll say. The piece was written in 2002, but it's essential conclusions are more timely now than ever.
    Newspaper editorialists have been known to scoff at parents who demand schools return to such "pre-modern" basics as the use of phonics in beginning reading. Those columnists might want to reconsider whether they themselves are the real dinosaurs. After all, whose existence is imperiled by the asteroid named illiteracy?
    Read it all.

    Os special concern to me was Arnold Kling's analysis of spending on newspapers by age group:

    The highest spending relative to the general population came from 65- to 74-year-olds, who spent 136 percent of the national average on newspaper subscriptions or single-copy purchases. The lowest spending on newspapers came from the 18- to 24-year-olds, who spent just 25 percent of the national average.
    This was old news years ago, but I think my reaction at the time bears repeating:
    This is grim news. And it certainly can't be blamed on bloggers.

    As I've said before, I'm somewhat guilty of being a parasite of the newspapers, but I'm still glad they're there. The loss of them would represent a loss -- not a transformation -- of culture. (Dare I speak of "death"?)

    This isn't a left wing/right wing issue, nor is it a newspapers-versus-the-blogosphere issue. I think it's a national shame.

    I wish there was something I could do to help.

    I still wish there was something I could do, and while it's not much, there is something.

    Poor Detroit has an embattled but old newspaper (the Detroit Free Press, which goes back to 1831), and I've been a loyal subscriber since I moved to Ann Arbor.

    Returning from California, I found this notice from the Free Press that made me laugh derisively:

  • Effective March 30, 2009, your current seven-day subscription will change to provide three days of home delivery on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday of the print edition and daily access to the Detroit Free Press electronic edition. This means that, using the internet, you will be able to read an exact copy of the daily newspaper online, wherever you are, by 5:30 a.m.
  • The cost of your subscription will remain the same, $8.69 a month if you renew your service for the remainder of 2009. As of January 1, 2010 your new subscription rate will be $12.00 per month....
  • Talk about paying more and getting less!

    My initial reaction was "There goes my daily paper!" Because, it really isn't a daily paper if it isn't delivered daily.

    I thought I should just cancel the silly thing. But now that I've thought it over, I've decided I won't, because the dinosaurs need help.

    posted by Eric at 01:03 PM | Comments (6)

    dodging snow and missing signs

    After carefully avoiding the snow (by taking I-70 all the way to Dayton, Ohio, then driving up I-75) I made it home last night.

    The biggest problem was that I nearly missed the I-75 exit because the signs had been so severely painted over by vandals as to be unreadable. In fact, almost every single road sign -- including almost every mileage marker -- on Highway 70 has been painted with dark brown paint, in what struck me as a superhuman effort by someone (or a group of people) to prevent anyone from reading the numbers.

    Eventually I realized that this was paintball gun vandalism, but I had not known how far it had gone. I do not exaggerate when I say that almost every sign -- from the Ohio border to Dayton and from Dayton to Toledo -- has been hit. It's beyond ordinary vandalism like spray-painting buildings, as people rely on road markers and signs and when they are unreadable, confusion and accidents could easily result.

    I doubt much if anything would be done to these vandals if they were ever caught, but I think the problem offers an illustration of a key difference between left and right thinking. Individualist types on the right would want the focus to be on finding and punishing the offender -- as severely as possible. The liberal communitarian approach, OTOH, would be to ban or limit the sale of paintball guns. In other words, one side believes in singling out the bad individual, while the other wants to punish everyone, by bureaucratic encroachment. As most readers know, I lean towards the former approach of nailing the bastards, even though I know it will never happen to them, even if they're caught.

    "Priorities." (Spare me.)

    The most callused approach I could find was apparently voiced by Seattle's Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis, who was quoted here as saying, "With all the problems with real bullets, we think residents should be able to let loose with paintball guns."

    Hey, maybe they'll hit his house!

    posted by Eric at 01:57 PM | Comments (8)

    Missouri break

    Today I drove from Albuquerque, NM to Joplin, MO -- a distance of some 800 miles.

    800 miles a day and pretty soon you're racking up real mileage -- and not just on the car. I'm simply exhausted. Closing my red, sore, eyes makes me see moving traffic.

    I'm still hoping against hope that the "clipper" storm in the Midwest peters out, but I'll find out tomorrow.

    By the way, I took a picture when I crossed the border from Oklahoma to Missouri. It looked interesting, but I had no idea it was this wild!


    I wouldn't have believed it had I not seen it on my own camera.

    I mean, my eyes may play games with me, but surely cameras don't lie.

    MORE: Finally, some music to die for!

    Here's another great oldie I heard earlier in the car that's still ringing in my ears.

    (It's "Adam & Eve" by The Mystics, recorded in 1958. Paul Simon joined the group a couple of years later.)

    posted by Eric at 01:09 AM | Comments (5)

    Boston Globe - End Heroin Prohibition

    Yes. You read that right. The Boston Globe says end heroin prohibition.

    THE OBAMA administration is committing 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Yet as the United States works to stabilize that country, the most important decisions don't just involve troop and funding levels. Also vital is ending the prohibition on growing opium poppies - for the policy is a key factor in Afghanistan's economic and security crisis.
    Of course the paper is only suggesting ending opium and heroin prohibition in Afghanistan. But still. It is a start.
    Since the US invasion in 2001, the American and Afghan governments have made the poppy-growing areas of Afghanistan, which produce 90 percent of the world's opium, a major front in the war on drugs. Yet despite eight years of efforts to eliminate the crop, farmers keep growing poppies, and the crop still reaches the black market.

    Earlier this month, the United Nations released a report anticipating lower poppy production in 2009 and touting the fact that some provinces have been declared poppy-free as a sign of success. This claim is deceptive. While some provinces that were comparatively new at growing poppy are now poppy-free, the crop is still entrenched in areas of southern Afghanistan, where it has historically been a significant part of the economy. In these areas, eradication will be much more difficult if not impossible.

    Eradication is not just an ineffective strategy, but also hurts the security interests of Afghanistan and Western governments. While the United States invests $1 billion in eradication efforts each year, the Taliban profits by purchasing poppy from farmers who have no one else to sell to, and selling it to the black market. Also, the eradication policy fuels anti-Western hatred when farmers become sympathetic to insurgent groups after the US and Afghan governments burn or spray their only source of income.

    You destroy people's livelihood and they get mad at you. Murderously mad. Who could have guessed it? Me for one. Here in March of 2005 and here in May of 2006 and here in October of 2006 and here in November of 2006 and here in November of 2008 and another one here in November of 2008 and here in January of 2009.

    Good to see the national press in the US finally figuring out something any reasonable person should have seen 3 or 4 years ago. Better late than never.

    And what was I saying not long after 9/11? "Do you support drug prohibition because it finances criminals at home, or because it finances terrorists abroad?" So if you were really awake you could have seen this coming over seven years ago. Our war on drugs was bound to clash with our war on terror. The war on drugs finances terrorists (among others) and is incommensurate with defeating them.

    As is usual in life: choices must be made.

    And do not forget that the opium poppy was very much intertwined with an earlier war the US was involved in. You can read all about it in: The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. This is not the first war where people we were trying to ally with were involved in the opiate trade. Perhaps we are smarter now. I hope so.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:43 PM | Comments (4)

    race is hell

    After a week spent in Los Angeles doing a very tricky wiring job (installing a large kiln), I'm finally on the road back to Ann Arbor. Today I drove from LA to Albuquerque, where I'm holed up for the night in a Motel 6 with a dog and an aquarium containing two turtles and a few fish. (A wonderful, action-packed gift!)

    I hadn't heard this song for some time, but while I was driving earlier, it came on at just the right moment.

    Always nice to know who you're racing against!

    What I'd really like to know is how to avoid Saturday's predicted Midwest snowstorm.

    Here's a photo of Albuquerque as I drove in.


    (After 700 miles of driving, that's about the way it looked, too.)

    posted by Eric at 02:33 AM | Comments (6)

    Music Is Going To Bits

    Tired of fighting the digital revolution the music companies appear to have finally decided to join it.

    After years of futile efforts to stop digital pirates from copying its music, the music business has started to copy the pirates.

    Online and mobile Relevant Products/Services services offering listeners unlimited, "free" access to millions of songs are set to proliferate in the coming months, according to executives of the recording companies, Internet service providers and cell phone makers who gathered for a music conference [in the U.K.] over the weekend.

    Unlike illegal file-sharing services, which the music industry says are responsible for billions of dollars in lost sales, these new offerings are perfectly legal. The services are not really free, but payment is included in the cost of, say, a new cell phone or a broadband Internet access contract, so the cost to the consumer is disguised. And, unlike pirate sites, these services provide revenue to the music companies.

    It is about time. However, the music industry's efforts to treat its customers like criminals is going to leave a lingering bad taste.

    So what prompted this sudden acquisition of good judgement?

    "YouTube is a conduit between artists and fans," Brian Message, the co-manager of Radiohead, Faithless and Kate Nash, said at the annual Midem gathering of music executives in Cannes, France, this week. "These days an artist can be a global brand and record labels are no longer the only option."

    Digital music sales via the Web and mobile phones climbed 25 percent to $3.7 billion last year, making up a fifth of the global market, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry said Jan. 16. Handset makers are providing a new source of revenue for artists by signing deals with music companies to boost sales of smartphones that can download tracks legally online. Artists can also get payments from YouTube for hits on their videos.

    "Because of broadband, wireless and the Internet in general, consumers are much more empowered to seek out the music and media they are interested in," said Aram Sinnreich, co- founder of music industry consulting firm

    Radar Research in New York. "The reality is there isn't going to be a single business model."

    There is nothing like finding out that you are not the only game in town to focus a businessman's mind on business.
    The music industry will be increasingly managed online, without the main backing coming from record labels, according to music managers at the conference. That includes online ticket sales, getting per-play licensing payments from YouTube or creating personalized music Web sites on MySpace Music.
    I think a good term for this transition might be: Edison joins the 21st Century. And now a days it is not only Edison who is Looking for the band.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:39 PM | Comments (1)


    The below video is a test firing of a surplus laser. Here is a picture of the laser:

    Diode Laser

    And the video of the laser firing:

    Fire the Laser! from famulus fusion on Vimeo.

    It is amazing what people are doing with industrial and government surplus these days. It is amazing what we can do with materials. Like high powered diode lasers. What is even more amazing is that famulus fusion is setting up his laser welding facilities not because he is interested in laser welding per se, but because he wants a laser welding tool to assist him in building a Polywell Fusion test reactor. There is a man with a dream and a will. And no small dream either. He is building a Polywell with Super Conducting magnets. If he gets a move on it will be the first such device in the world.

    Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
    Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:17 AM | Comments (0)

    Justice American Style

    The Drug Task Forces that ran wild under the Clinton Administration were curtailed under Bush II but are set to be revived under Obama. Why? Well it will stimulate the economy.
    The stimulus bill includes plenty of green for those wearing blue.

    The compromise bill doles out more than $3.7 billion for police programs, much of which is set aside for hiring new officers.

    The law allocates $2 billion for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, a program that has funded drug task forces and such things as prisoner-rehabilitation and after-school programs.

    An additional $1 billion is set aside to hire local police under the Community Oriented Policing Services program.

    The program, known as COPS grants, paid the salaries of many local police officers and was a "modest contributor" to the decline in crime in the 1990s, according to a 2005 government oversight report.

    Both programs had been eliminated during the Bush administration.

    Of course this is going to stimulate the police economy. To the detriment of the economy of poor people who do not have the resources or the will to fight back.

    I'm still trying to figure out why Obama, the Champion of The Poor, would back such a measure? And why Bush, Champion of The Elite, ended the Drug Task Forces during his administration? It doesn't fit the narrative.

    You can watch a YouTube interview with Regina Kelly, the person portrayed in the movie as "Dee", at the YouTube link provided.

    H/T Colleen McCool and Buford Terrell of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:30 AM | Comments (1)

    Constellation Program
    J2X Engine
    NASA is building a new man rated launch vehicle that is going back to the tried and tested methods of the Apollo Program. You can see more pictures and read the captions at Constellation Program Gallery.

    If you want to learn more about the Apollo Program this DVD from 2005 might help: Apollo 11: The Eagle Has Landed.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:43 AM | Comments (0)

    The War On Gangs

    Yes. The War On Gangs is over in the US.

    The murder rate in the USA has been declining since 1991. We know that a real war on drug gangs (Mexico) causes an increase in dug violence. Even the FBI agrees with that point (a real drug war increases violence).

    So in reality drugs have been de facto decriminalized. Now why do I say THAT? Good question. I have a train of logic which I hope hasn't jumped the tracks.

    We no longer have a war on gangs. We have a war on some gang members. Destabilizing gangs is bad for public order.

    And of course the arrests for drug crimes are up. How else are you going to cover for such a massive shift in policy?

    I was a witness to one of the whole gang raids of the 80s (around 1988 IIRC). The big kahuna was a next door neighbor of mine. A really nice guy. We never had gang problems in the neighborhood until the DEA took him out. Any way. The FBI predicted a rise in the murder rate in our town due to taking the gang out.

    Let us just say that the spike in murders was not well received.

    My guess is that the DEA decided: a war on gangs or continuation of the gravy train.

    Ending the war on gangs of course ends the war on drugs as a real enterprise. You need organized crime to organize transnational shipments of illegal commodities. Not to mention making a market between people who would rather not know each other: growers and buyers - for commodities that are locally grown.

    So there you have it. The drug war is no longer about reducing the supplies of drugs or taking down the gangs that move them. It is now just a jobs program for government employees and preventing the worst violations of public order.

    Inspired by a post at the Volokh Conspiracy

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:16 PM | Comments (5)

    I'm Here To Spread Panic

    And why not? Europe is headed for the rocks. And it appears that there is nothing that can save it. The rocks are Eastern European debt.

    If mishandled by the world policy establishment, this debacle is big enough to shatter the fragile banking systems of Western Europe and set off round two of our financial Gotterdammerung.

    Austria's finance minister Josef Proll made frantic efforts last week to put together a €150bn rescue for the ex-Soviet bloc. Well he might. His banks have lent €230bn to the region, equal to 70pc of Austria's GDP.

    "A failure rate of 10pc would lead to the collapse of the Austrian financial sector," reported Der Standard in Vienna. Unfortunately, that is about to happen.

    The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) says bad debts will top 10pc and may reach 20pc. The Vienna press said Bank Austria and its Italian owner Unicredit face a "monetary Stalingrad" in the East.

    So let me see are the banks the Russians or the Germans? Would it make a difference?
    Stephen Jen, currency chief at Morgan Stanley, said Eastern Europe has borrowed $1.7 trillion abroad, much on short-term maturities. It must repay - or roll over - $400bn this year, equal to a third of the region's GDP. Good luck. The credit window has slammed shut.

    Not even Russia can easily cover the $500bn dollar debts of its oligarchs while oil remains near $33 a barrel. The budget is based on Urals crude at $95. Russia has bled 36pc of its foreign reserves since August defending the rouble.

    "This is the largest run on a currency in history," said Mr Jen.

    In Poland, 60pc of mortgages are in Swiss francs. The zloty has just halved against the franc. Hungary, the Balkans, the Baltics, and Ukraine are all suffering variants of this story. As an act of collective folly - by lenders and borrowers - it matches America's sub-prime debacle. There is a crucial difference, however. European banks are on the hook for both. US banks are not.

    And just a while ago the Russians were doing so well. They were making money faster than their elite could steal it. But all the oil producers are in the same fix. Not enough buyers in the market. Too many sellers.

    And Europe on the hook for American and Eastern European debt? Priceless.

    The real question though is this: why didn't any of the oil producing countries see a threat to their economies when oil went from $100 a bbl to $150 a bbl? And another question. Why is the US Congress restricting drilling in the US which would help stabilize oil markets?

    Almost all East bloc debts are owed to West Europe, especially Austrian, Swedish, Greek, Italian, and Belgian banks. En plus, Europeans account for an astonishing 74pc of the entire $4.9 trillion portfolio of loans to emerging markets.

    They are five times more exposed to this latest bust than American or Japanese banks, and they are 50pc more leveraged (IMF data).

    Spain is up to its neck in Latin America, which has belatedly joined the slump (Mexico's car output fell 51pc in January, and Brazil lost 650,000 jobs in one month). Britain and Switzerland are up to their necks in Asia.

    Whether it takes months, or just weeks, the world is going to discover that Europe's financial system is sunk, and that there is no EU Federal Reserve yet ready to act as a lender of last resort or to flood the markets with emergency stimulus.

    The Europeans have an excellent system for maintaining the value of their currency. They contract their money supply when their economies turn south (well at least some of them do that). However, that makes them vulnerable to countries that are inflating their money supply (the USA) because they then lose production to the lower cost suppliers. Further weakening their economies.
    "There are accidents waiting to happen across the region, but the EU institutions don't have any framework for dealing with this. The day they decide not to save one of these one countries will be the trigger for a massive crisis with contagion spreading into the EU."
    It all comes down to this: civilization runs on energy. The higher the cost of energy the less the civilization. So I'm hoping America will do something serious on the energy front. Drill for oil, build more nukes, add more refineries, build a HV DC backbone across the US for electricity, get serious about fusion research. Something.

    Because - until we lower the cost of energy we are (at least for a while) going to have to do less with more. Never a cheery prospect.

    Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
    Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:16 AM | Comments (5)

    The Bo Diddley Beat

    I especially liked the Bo Diddley Beat about 4 1/2 minutes in.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:01 AM | Comments (2)

    What Engineers Do

    Part 2
    Part 3
    Part 4
    Part 5

    I especially liked Part 5 where one engineer describes what it is like to commit other people's lives to one of your designs. I had that feeling a lot working in aerospace on jet aircraft. I still get that feeling when a plane goes down. Was it one I worked on? Was the failure because of something I did?

    "Physicists dream of Nobel prizes, engineers dream of mishaps." - Hendrik Tennekes

    So where is this generation's Apollo Program? How about fusion powered rockets? A trip to Mars in 3 or 4 weeks? There is a way that has a chance to do it: Polywell Fusion. Because no matter how much work is done on tokamaks (ITER etc.) they are never going to be light enough to get us into space.

    Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
    Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

    H/T Billy Catringer at Talk Polywell

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:50 AM | Comments (5)

    Beyond Expectations

    I'm visiting here and there on the 'net and find many conservatives shocked and awed by our new President. They believed it would take Obama six months to show his level of incompetence. But two weeks? Outside the realm of calculation. Only three Years 11 months and 6 days to go. He has exceeded his opposition's expectations on economics by a large margin. I wonder how he will do when his foreign policy test shows up. But I don't wonder much. I expect a similar level of performance. Beyond expectations.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:01 PM | Comments (12)

    China And Russia Hooking Up

    Yes. It is true. They are hooking up their electrical grids.

    AREVA's Transmission and Distribution (T&D) division has signed a multi-million Euro contract to supply H400 High-Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) thyristor valves to interconnect the Chinese and Russian power grids.

    The contract, the first of its kind awarded to AREVA T&D in China, is signed with the Xuji Group Corporation and China Electric Power Research Institute for the end customer, State Grid of China Corporation.

    The valves will be installed in the Sino-Russian converter station located in China's Heilongjiang province. To overcome the countries' grid incompatibility, the station will convert alternate current into direct current and inversely.

    AREVA T&D was awarded the contract thanks to its new high profile generation H400 Valve technology developed in collaboration with the China Electric Power Research Institute and the Xuji Group Corporation. The company's ability to meet both China's localization policy requirements and a tight installation schedule were also key factors in this success. The installation of the valves will begin in 2008.

    HVDC technology is used to connect power networks and to transmit large amounts of electricity over long distances with minimal losses. With plans to transmit more than 130 GW of electricity over the next five to ten years, China's needs in HVDC are booming. This success will strengthen AREVA T&D's position on the domestic HVDC market and demonstrates the company's ability to meet the country's needs.
    I know. It sounds like a press release for the H400 valve. In fact it is a press release for the H400 valve.

    It does reinforce my point about new long distance transmission of power in the US. DC is the way to go.

    Here is another bit from the company making that same point:

    Ultra High Voltage Direct Current (UHVDC) transmission, with voltages of up to 800 kV, is the choice being made by many energy managers around the world for the future network developments.

    With generation sites becoming farther and farther away from load centers, HVDC is particularly economical for transmission distances greater than 700 km.

    HVDC can transmit three times as much power per tower compared with conventional AC. This means a substantial reduction in land costs and often no new right-of-way (ROW) access permits, particularly difficult in densely populated regions.

    UHVDC transmission maintains all the technical advantages associated with HVDC transmission: back-to-back or point-to-point connections for synchronized or asynchronous networks, regardless of voltage or frequency. Fully controllable, all HVDC systems prevent faults from propagating and reduce overall associated transmission losses.

    So why isn't DC being pushed in the USA? My guess is that there are no HVDC equipment companies in the US who own enough politicians.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
    Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

    posted by Simon at 04:19 PM | Comments (4)

    Bigoted gay double standard

    While running through a predominantly gay neighborbood in Los Angeles yesterday, I saw a sign which struck me as so ridiculous that I did a doubletake, and returned to take a photo of it.


    What that means is that residents who leave their homes and return (whether to go to local stores or whatever) more than once in a six hour period are committing the offense of "cruising." (I guess I never realized it before, but according to LA law, I'm a serial cruiser!)

    What astounded me more than the sign was the reasoning behind it. Wanting to be careful before shooting off my mouth in my blog, I asked my friend (who is not gay) about the signs, because I assumed the idea was to prohibit low rider types from drag racing or something. Amazingly, he told me that the idea was in fact to prohibit, um, traditional gay cruising! In a gay neighborhood! Not only that, but he told me that an obviously gay police officer was enforcing the law in a discriminatory manner -- against gays! (Talk about homosexual self oppression!)

    The straights would never get away with such blatant bigotry.

    What a world. What a world.

    (No idea whether there's a Valentine's Day exception....)

    posted by Eric at 12:43 PM | Comments (18)


    Obama has a plan for herding his cattle (or should that be sheeple) into cities where they will be more amenable to Democrat machine politics.

    That's why I'd like to see high speed rail where it can be constructed. That's why I would like to invest in mass transit because potentially that's energy efficient and I think people are alot more open now to thinking regionally in terms of how we plan our transportation infrastructure. The days where we're just building sprawl forever, those days are over.
    People live where they live because of a number of factors. Affordability, commute distance, schools, neighborhood quality, taxes, etc. So what would a new rule look like? Dwellings must be built within x miles of a train station. Of course those who decide what routes the trains will take can make a fortune by adjusting where the stations are located.

    There is no doubt government can prevent people from living where they choose to live. All Hail Obama who totally gets the Leadership Principle. I think it sounds better in the original German.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:52 PM | Comments (14)

    The Wind Power Express

    Since there is so much Green Money coming out of Washington it looks like a lot of people want in on the act. There is a lot of wind in the upper Mid-West but not many power lines. So a company is proposing that the government get behind building some new power lines.

    ITC Holdings Corp., over the past year, has worked to develop the "Green Power Express," a network of transmission lines that would facilitate the movement of 12,000 MW of power from the wind-abundant areas in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa to Midwest load centers, such as Chicago, southeastern Wisconsin, Minneapolis and other states that demand clean, renewable energy. This new project addresses the recognized lack of electric transmission infrastructure needed to integrate renewable wind energy.

    "We are proud to announce the Green Power Express after almost a year of studies, stakeholder discussions and development," said Joseph L. Welch, chairman, president and CEO of ITC. "The Green Power Express will create the much-needed link between the renewable energy-rich regions of the Midwest and high-demand population centers. The plan is consistent with efforts supported by organizations such as the Upper Midwest Transmission Development Initiative and promotes a national energy vision. ITC looks forward to continuing to work with them and other stakeholders in the region to move forward with this long-term solution to our national energy challenges."

    The Green Power Express is just one step in ITC's broader efforts to modernize the overburdened, aging electricity grid. This project will be an integral component to ITC's efforts to create a high-voltage backbone that can meet America's renewable energy goals and eliminate costly inefficiencies in the grid.

    Lots of wonderful goodness there. Until you get to the fine print.
    The Green Power Express transmission project will traverse portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana and will ultimately include approximately 3,000 miles of extra high-voltage (765 kV) transmission. The entire project is currently estimated to cost approximately $10 to 12 billion. Portions of the Green Power Express fall within the service territory of ITC Midwest, an ITC subsidiary. ITC has been working with many of the Upper Midwest wind developers over the last year in assembling a realistic accounting of their wind development plans and sites, which resulted in the design of the Green Power Express.
    That transmission is going to be done with AC which is not the most efficient over long distances for a number of technical reasons. DC also gives you something for wind generators - it can accept variable frequency AC easily (because it is converted to DC. In addition the power quality of the AC does not need to be very good. So what does that mean? Cheaper (and possibly lighter) generators for all those wind turbines. The savings in wind turbine costs might very well pay for a significant part of the line costs. Unfortunately we have separated generation from transmission (it does have its good points in diversifying sources of supply) so that the system costs are not properly accounted for.

    I suppose that political pressure could be brought to bear to get the transmission companies to do the right thing.

    Contact Government:

    House of Representatives
    The Senate
    The President

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:14 PM | Comments (17)

    Short cloudy blogburst

    I'm now officially on the road, having stopped in LA to help an artist with a kiln problem.

    Being wIthout Internet access where I'm staying, I decided to check email at a local place called the Lyric Cafe, on Hyperion and Lyric. (Good coffee.)

    I'm just lucky as hell that M. Simon has been blogging up a storm during my extended absence, especially about important issues, such as Polywell fusion and the lack of funding therefor by the Obama administration.

    I'm hoping that when -- and if -- I finally get home I'll get back to something like a normal life.

    Sheesh. Now it's starting to look like rain, and I'm sitting here blogging outdoors!

    MORE: Commenter Montag asks an irresistible question:

    I was reading about fusion and stopped here.
    May I ask which Classical Values you are talking about?
    Let's see...

    An unlimited supply of virtually free powerand, free heat would certainly be a Vulcan Value. Hope that's classical enough!

    Vulcan had some pretty wild sons, BTW....

    posted by Eric at 06:56 PM | Comments (6)

    Better Than Theory Predicts

    Dave Price at Dean Esmay has done a post that I should have done. He is discussing Physicist Rick Nebel's report on the latest Polywell Fusion experiments.

    Dean goes into the technical nitty gritty of the report (and has a link to where the discussion took place) and if that interests you by all means give Dave a look (In fact do it anyway, Dave is worth your time. Or as I might have put it were I in a humorous mood: The Price is right.).

    So let me give you the short version:

    1. The machine is working way better than the usual theories predict
    2. No one knows why (lots of suspicions floating around)
    3. New instruments are being added
    4. The current machine is called WB-7. WB 7.1 (no details) is in progress.

    All this is very good news. It means what they have learned so far warrants further efforts.

    Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
    Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:53 PM | Comments (6)

    Old People Will Not Be Stimulated

    It looks like the Obama administration has found the perfect cure for our medical crisis and our Social Security crisis. Kill off old people.

    Republican Senators are questioning whether President Barack Obama's stimulus bill contains the right mix of tax breaks and cash infusions to jump-start the economy.

    Tragically, no one from either party is objecting to the health provisions slipped in without discussion. These provisions reflect the handiwork of Tom Daschle, until recently the nominee to head the Health and Human Services Department.

    Senators should read these provisions and vote against them because they are dangerous to your health. (Page numbers refer to H.R. 1 EH, pdf version).

    The bill's health rules will affect "every individual in the United States" (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors.

    But the bill goes further. One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and "guide" your doctor's decisions (442, 446). These provisions in the stimulus bill are virtually identical to what Daschle prescribed in his 2008 book, "Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis."According to Daschle, doctors have to give up autonomy and "learn to operate less like solo practitioners."

    They have taken another big step (and a rather large one at that) towards further nationalization of health care.

    Think about the Department of Motor Vehicles dealing with your next medical emergency. And who are the targets of all this wonderful goodness where your relationship to your doctor is replaced with your relationship to your government? The expendables. The old people. And if you consider bang for the medical buck in time old will come to mean any one over 40.

    Daschle says health-care reform "will not be pain free." Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them. That means the elderly will bear the brunt.

    Medicare now pays for treatments deemed safe and effective. The stimulus bill would change that and apply a cost- effectiveness standard set by the Federal Council (464).

    The Federal Council is modeled after a U.K. board discussed in Daschle's book. This board approves or rejects treatments using a formula that divides the cost of the treatment by the number of years the patient is likely to benefit. Treatments for younger patients are more often approved than treatments for diseases that affect the elderly, such as osteoporosis.

    In 2006, a U.K. health board decreed that elderly patients with macular degeneration had to wait until they went blind in one eye before they could get a costly new drug to save the other eye. It took almost three years of public protests before the board reversed its decision.

    If the Obama administration's economic stimulus bill passes the Senate in its current form, seniors in the U.S. will face similar rationing. Defenders of the system say that individuals benefit in younger years and sacrifice later.

    OK. But are we being given a choice here? Suppose some people want to sacrifice in their younger years for their later years? What if longer life actually has value to some people?

    The Democrats have come down hard with the socialist disease. We are no longer people. We are now "the masses". A herd. To be tended and sheared. Old cows no longer producing milk in sufficient quantities will be put out to a very small pasture with a lot of other cows.

    H/T gblaze42 Talk Polywell

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:21 PM | Comments (14)

    Chemicals And DRAMs

    Keeping an eye on the supply and demand of basic commodities can tell a lot about the direction the economy is headed in.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:17 AM | Comments (0)

    Pot Head

    Lucky she didn't try "bong head". Although lighting it would probably have been more fun than torching the pot.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:06 PM | Comments (0)

    Bong Hits For Kellogs

    For those of you who haven't been keeping up, Michael Phelps who won 14 Olympic Gold Medals in Swimming has also been caught smoking a bong. Graphic evidence has been provided.

    Naturally his sponsors are not happy. But the sponsor's customers are unhappy that the sponsors are unhappy. As part of its damage control efforts for dropping Mr. Phelps from its list of endorsers Kellogg (the cereal people) has set up a hotline to cope with all the calls.

    1-800-962-1413 Option #1

    The fact that it is the first option says that they are getting a lot of heat. Think of it this way. If this was 1929 pot is legal and beer is not. Had he been caught smoking pot in 1929 he would have been considered eccentric, but not a criminal. We are fortunate to have a government that can make as many criminals as it needs.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:20 PM | Comments (5)

    Giving The Economy A Boost

    It looks like the Obama administration has accidentally given the economy a boost.

    Due to the overwhelming increase in orders, it has become increasingly difficult to predict deliveries for all Rock River Arms' products. Because of this, we are no longer quoting estimated delivery dates. We are continuing to increase production, build, and ship products as inventory becomes available based on the date your order was placed. In addition, we will no longer call for payment before orders are shipped. If you place an order using a credit card and your order becomes available for shipment, we will process the order with the credit card supplied. If the credit card supplied is declined for any reason, the next order in line will be shipped and the declined order will be placed at the back of the file for future shipment. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your patience and continued support.
    Sounds like a seller's market to me. Perhaps if President Present secretly threatened to outlaw auto sales he could do something useful for Detroit too.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
    Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

    posted by Simon at 05:27 PM | Comments (2)

    Sgt. Mom Found A Good One

    Sgt. Mom, blogging under the pseudonym Celia Hayes, left this comment at Althouse about the Obama Administration.

    "I knew it was gonna be a train wreck, but I thought it would have pulled out of the station, first!"
    Sgt. Mom writes books. You should read some.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:33 PM | Comments (0)

    Obama Jokes

    So I'm Googling around type "Obama" into Google and the #2 item on the list with over 8 million references is "Obama jokes". Well I got to get me some of those. My favorite so far is "Barack Obama is President of the United States". I'm sure he will get funnier as time goes on. There is a site called The Barack Obama Jokes Website which is supposed to have some real jokes. You know like the joke is on him.

    Harry Truman said, "The buck stops here!"
    Barack Obama says, "Leave the bucks here!"
    Not bad.
    Q. Why did Obama change his name from Barry to Barack?
    A. He thought Barry sounded too American.
    That is going to leave a mark.

    Now here is a pair that seems to go together.

    Q. Why will Jane Fonda vote for Barack Obama?
    A. Because Ho Chi Minh is dead.

    Q. Why will Ho Chi Minh vote for Barack Obama?
    A. Because Ho Chi Minh is dead.

    Chicago politicians. They are special. Luckily we have one for President.
    Have you ever noticed how Obama thinks nothing is impossible as long as somebody else has to pay for it?
    I thought that was the motto of Democrats everywhere.
    Blessed are they who find Obama funny, for they shall never cease to be entertained.
    I'm counting on it. Only Three Years 11 months 1 weeks and 5 days to go. Why is that so painful? I think this one explains it.
    Even though Obama doesn't have any experience, we'll get plenty.
    Here is a rather nasty one from the election.
    "But all this doesn't matter because Obama keeps pulling away in the polls. Every week, he gets a little more ahead. And with almost all groups. Liberals, of course, always supported him. ... And conservatives like the idea of paying a black man to clean up their mess." ~Bill Maher
    Of course that was before the election. Things are looking different now. I think he will be running his 2012 campaign on this platform: "New and Better Messes". And it only took him a little over two weeks to get a good start.

    Here is one for you:

    Q. Why was George Bush happy that Obama got elected?

    A. He thought it would improve his standing with history. What surprised Bush is that it only took two weeks.

    OK. I'm going to finish this post with a turtle.

    While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75-year-old Texas rancher whose hand was caught in a gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to Obama and his bid to be our President. The old rancher said, "Well, ya know, Obama is a "post turtle." Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a "post turtle" was. The old rancher said, "When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a "post turtle". The old rancher saw a puzzled look on the doctor's face, so he continued to explain. "You know he didn't get up there by himself, he doesn't belong up there, he doesn't know what to do while he is up there, and you just wonder what kind of a dumb ass put him up there."
    Which reminds me: "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average Obama voter."

    And if you want more and are tired of surfing the 'net you can always read the book: Barack Obama Jokes.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:04 PM | Comments (6)

    The times they are a changin'

    I've had no time to get online lately, but I loved the nostalgic nugget that Glenn linked earlier :

    So you have a former Weather Underground member who now is pro-military, throwing shoes at the anti-military Socialist Mayor, in a protest that would fall under the "community of sanctuary" protection if the protester still was a member of the Weather Underground and protesting against the Iraq war. Only in Ithaca.
    I'd like to see such antics spread to Berkeley and Ann Arbor.

    But for now I'll just be glad when I can finally stop having to snake out sewer lines that hadn't been used in decades.

    In the process, I have learned that time is not kind to old tubes (whether they're located inside homes or humans...)

    But check out this gadget!


    It's the "Ridgid SeeSnake Micro Inspection Camera"!

    From BoingBoing's description:

    Generally, micro inspection cameras are frightfully expensive professional instruments for dedicated industrial applications with commensurately high professional fees attached. When I stumbled across the $182 Ridgid SeeSnake, I became so excited that I felt a wave of static electricity across my scalp and was momentarily light-headed before I regained my composure long enough to click Add to Shopping Cart.
    Well, it is exciting. Imagine the possibilities.
    Besides being able to see in hidden locations, there are hook and magnet wand attachments to grab objects discovered in these previously uncharted territories. Clearly, this is not a professional grade tool and is not a direct replacement for versions costing thousands of dollars. However, with the 3-foot wand it is more than adequate for looking in your own ears. Ladies and gentlemen, let's face facts, that alone is worth $182 and any ancillary purpose is gravy.
    If you had the um, intestinal fortitude to use it on your own internal tubing, think of the bundle you could save!

    posted by Eric at 11:59 AM | Comments (2)

    Mothers Drugging Newborns

    Yes. When I first learned of this practice I was shocked. What kind of mother would do such a thing?

    Cannabinoids, whether plant-derived, synthetic or endogenous, have been shown to stimulate appetite in the adult organism. We have reported previously that cannabinoid receptors play a critical role during the early suckling period:
    Then comes a description of the science followed by what we have all been waiting for. The executive conclusion:
    Our data support previous evidence for a critical role of cannabinoid CB1 receptors for the initiation of suckling. Further, the present observations support the existence of an unknown cannabinoid receptor, with partial control over milk ingestion in newboms. Our data also suggest that the CB-/-1 neonates possess a compensatory mechanism which helps them overcome the lack of cannabinoid CB1 receptors.
    So it is the good mothers who start their children out on drugs from the best source available. Breast milk. Ever notice how stoned babies are after drinking breast milk? Now you know why. They have been drinking their cannabinoids.

    And which cannabinoids exactly?

    Mother's milk has been shown to supply a type of endocannabinoid (the natural neurotransmitters which marijuana simulates), 2-Arachidonoyl glycerol.

    Though now it is almost universally prescribed, in the 1950s the practice of breastfeeding went through a period where it was out of vogue and the use of infant formula was considered superior to breast milk.

    However, today it is now recognized that there is no commercial formula that can equal breast milk.

    It is probably just as well that there are no cannibinoids in infant formula. Wouldn't want kids to get addicted to that stuff. But breasts? They are almost universally admired by men and women alike. And what is this? We love our mothers because they supply us with drugs early on and at no charge? Nature is truly stranger than you could ever believe if we didn't have evidence of what is actually going on. Add in a touch of human sociology and you get things like The History of the Breast. The research must have been fascinating. Now if the author only knew the whole story a snappier title would have been in order: "The History of Breasts and The Drugs They Deliver". Or maybe something for the mass market: "Breasts and Drugs". Well I can dream.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:30 AM | Comments (4)

    Tax Breaks For The Rich

    It seems as if we have a new kind of economic privilege in America.

    The Senate voted Tuesday to give a tax break to new car buyers, setting aside bipartisan concerns over the size of an economic stimulus bill with a price tag approaching $900 billion.

    The 71-26 vote came as President Barack Obama said he lies awake nights worrying about the economy, and signaled opposition to congressional attempts to insert "buy American" provisions into the legislation for fear it would spark a trade war.

    Sen. Barbara Mikulski led the successful effort to allow many car buyers to claim an income tax deduction for sales taxes paid on new autos and interest payments on car loans.

    She said the plan would aid the beleaguered automobile industry as well as create jobs at a time the economy is losing them at a rapid rate. "I believe we can help by getting the consumer into the showroom," she said.

    So government is now the marketing arm of the auto companies offering discounts to entice buyers? Do these critters have any idea of how foolish they look?

    And what is this "if you buy a new car you get a tax break". If you buy a used car - nada. Don't people selling used cars deserve to have their market propped up? What makes them unworthy? Probably not enough union labor in the used car business to make it worth a politician's time.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    Welcome Instapundit readers. You might also like Teaching Without Teachers which covers the $20 laptop revolution in India.

    posted by Simon at 09:03 PM | Comments (7)

    Teaching Without Teachers

    India has a lot of people to educate. It is trying to work out ways of automating the process. One of those ways is the design of a $20 (US) laptop called the Sakshat.

    The Sakshat is planned to boost distance learning so as to allow India to meet its vast educational requirements: It has a huge, largely-poor population, of which over 550 million are younger than 25.

    The Sakshat will also fit into a grand plan to boost e-learning at over 18,000 colleges and 400 universities.

    Giving every person under 25 a laptop costing $20 is going to cost $11 billion dollars. I discussed my vision of a low cost laptop at The $20 laptop.

    But that is not where the real cost savings and bottlenecks are. The real cost saving is education without teachers because they cost too much and there are not enough of them.

    During the next six years, by some estimates, India will need to create another 1,500 universities. Educational institutions in the UK and US are lining up to become partners to help with this huge projected tertiary-level expansion.

    Pressure is building on the government to permit foreign investment into the sector and use public-private partnerships to meet some of the demand. Leading universities across the world, such as Kellogg School of Management in the US and Imperial College in the UK, are exploring different models, including faculty partnerships, distance learning and setting up campuses.

    But the government appears to favour turning to technology ahead of international partnerships to bring people into higher education.

    Very smart. In a lot of ways it reminds me of what Bucky Fuller saw as the future of education in his book Education Automation. Maybe we can finally do something about the stranglehold of the teacher's unions on education.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:16 AM | Comments (10)

    The $20 Laptop

    India thinks it needs a $20 laptop to educate its population.

    India is planning to produce a laptop computer for the knockdown price of about $20, having come up with the Tata Nano, the world's cheapest car at about $2,000.

    The project, backed by New Delhi, would considerably undercut the so-called "$100 laptop", otherwise known as the Children's Machine or XO, that was designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology of the US.

    Electronic Design News has some interesting views on the subject:
    There were no details available in the story about just how the Indian designers intended to hit that price point. But apparently it's not vaporware. The story claims that a prototype will be available on display at an education conference tomorrow. There appears to be no commercial backer to build the design in quantity yet, however.

    None the less, and even if the project ultimately proves too ambitious, there is an important message here. When we are addressing the developing-world market, we cannot afford to make the assumptions that we in the US don't even recognize as assumptions any more.

    Such as? For instance, take the assumption that a computer necessarily implies an Intel/Microsoft computer, or even an x86-based CPU. Clearly, if you consider the tasks necessary for e-mail, facebook, google, or distance learning, nothing from the Intel or Microsoft camps can be even remotely justified. A sufficient CPU costs pennies, lodged in the corner of an SoC that costs a few dollars. A sufficient amount of memory costs a few dollars more. Take out the mediocre mechanical keyboard and the pointless mouse, replaced by a cheap membrane keyboard, and the bulk of the bill-of-materials cost of a really lean netbook design will go into the display and power supply.

    But all these costly components are things we assume must be in a notebook PC, and therefore in a netbook as well. When we do so we are wrong. The message here is not that Intel and Microsoft are soaking the industrial economies for a fortune in unnecessary costs (although that might be an interesting discussion. Please feel free with your comments.) The point is that when we approach a developing-world market, we must reason from first principles. And those principles are based on the actual user's needs, not on how we would do it in Silicon Valley or Cambridge.

    OK. Where would I start? With the processor. The SeaFORTH chip looks like a good start. About 25 billion operations a second. At 360 milliwatts of power. And that is peak. it goes down to 360 microwatts while the processor is waiting for something to do. And it only uses the power required for what ever process is running. Automatically. What would I do different? Add more RAM to each of the processors (there are 40 of them), go to a 32 bit address bus and a 32 bit data bus (at least for external access), and go to the next size smaller semiconductor lithography process node to shrink it all. Put it in a cheap package - 100 pins would be nice. Maybe 128 if it eliminates other hardware. Four external interfaces. USB, wireless, microphone jack, earphone jack. A keyboard and a touch screen display. FLASH to take the place of a hard drive. Maybe 1 G byte. Maybe 1/4 of that. RAM of about the same size.

    In the classroom: Custom designed server with 40 USB connectors. Several 1 T byte hard drives in a RAID configuration. For student use and for local storage of info to reduce Internet bandwidth required to support classes.

    The server could be multiprocessor if that was a convenient way of getting it up faster. Ultimately server power must be reduced. If each of 40 laptops consumed 1/2 watt on average it would be nice to have a server that averaged 40 watts or less. All powered by a solar/wind power plant capable of 2,000 watt hours a day. At 6 hours a day charging time a 500 watt array should be able to keep a 100 Amp-hour deep cycle 12 volt battery charged up without any trouble most of the year. That should suffice to keep the server up and to charge the laptops as well. A solar array on the cover of the laptop might be interesting as well. I wonder why no one is doing that? Which kind of reminds me of something I had worked on earlier with somewhat more grandiose ends in mind. The Neighborhood Development Package. Evidently they want to start smaller. Which is probably a very good idea.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:54 PM | Comments (3)

    Unacceptable Risk

    President Present is running into resistance from the Pentagon over has troop withdrawal plans.

    The Times reported that Odierno had "developed a plan that would move slower than Mr. Obama's campaign timetable" and had suggested in an interview "it might take the rest of the year to determine exactly when United States forces could be drawn down significantly."

    The opening argument by the Petraeus-Odierno faction against Obama's withdrawal policy was revealed the evening of the January 21 meeting when retired army General Jack Keane, one of the authors of the Bush troop-surge policy and a close political ally and mentor of Petraeus, appeared on the "Lehrer News Hour" to comment on Obama's pledge on Iraq combat troop withdrawal.

    Keane, who had certainly been briefed by Petraeus on the outcome of the Oval Office meeting, argued that implementing such a withdrawal of combat troops would "increase the risk rather dramatically over the 16 months."

    He asserted that it would jeopardize the "stable political situation in Iraq" and called that risk "not acceptable."

    The assertion that Obama's withdrawal policy threatens the gains allegedly won by the Bush troop surge and Petraeus' strategy in Iraq will apparently be the theme of the campaign that military opponents are now planning.

    Getting General Petraeus to win the war and then having Mr. Obama give it back to the jihadis does not seem like a good idea.

    I wonder what Mr. Obama really plans to do? If he gives up Iraq to the enemies of stability he is going to create a lot of other enemies. Not just here at home but also in the Middle East and Europe as well. OTOH there is always the possibility some one is paying him for results.

    However, more and more I'm leaning towards the idea that President Present's map of reality and reality significantly diverge. This could lead to problems.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
    Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

    posted by Simon at 04:46 AM | Comments (0)

    Interesting Power Supply Company

    Commenter windmill at Talk Polywell has brought to my attention an interesting power supply company Diversified Technologies Inc. Here are a couple of short (under 10 pages) papers that explain the technology.

    Solid State High Voltage DC Power Distribution & Control [pdf]

    Here is the key point from the above [pdf].

    The largest cost components in this design are the semiconductors (IGBTs). Because of their widespread use in locomotive engines, subway cars, elevators, and a wide range of electrical motor drive and power supply systems, these devices are evolving at a rapid pace, especially in comparison with vacuum switch tubes. In the last decade, we have seen the switching speed and power handling capability of IGBTs increase by an order of magnitude (200 kVA to 4 MVA), at essentially constant prices. This puts high power electronics, for the first time, on a favorable, long term cost reduction path. This is the equivalent of the computer industry's Moore's Law of continually higher performance per unit cost, but applied to power systems.

    Today, a 100 kV, 2MW buck regulator, with a series switch, can be built for approximately $500k USD. This cost will decline due to increased semiconductor performance and decreased manufacturing costs. In contrast, estimates for the equivalent conventional approach are $2- 3M USD, and show no trend towards cost reduction.

    Quite so. IGBTs with a voltage rating of 6,500 Volts and a 600 Amp current rating are now off the shelf.

    A Solid-State Switch for 13.8kV Power Distribution [pdf]

    The company claims to be able to make power conversion equipment that costs in the range of 10¢ a watt in production quantities. That is a very good number. Diversified claims specifications for their supply technology that are very not too bad. An adjustable 100 KV DC supply can deliver 1% regulation and .1% ripple. That is just the ticket for Polywell Fusion experiments using D-D. For pB11 at the resonance peak I'd like to see tighter regulation. Say .1% regulation and .01% ripple. I have some ideas.

    OK. That gets us past fusion power supplies. What implications does it have for the electrical grid? It means that High Voltage DC distribution of electrical power is now within the realm of economic feasibility. DC distribution is more efficient (per unit of materials used) than AC distribution. It can also cover much larger distances without having to worry about AC phasing problems due to differences of route lengths from different sources. Wind in North Dakota feeding loads in New York city? No problem.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
    IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

    posted by Simon at 05:17 PM | Comments (0)

    my topological quest for a Southern North

    Now that things are finally winding down and my long trip back to Ann Arbor is looming ahead, I've been checking the omens and portents, because more than anything else, I want to avoid driving in snow or ice.

    Yesterday was Groundhog Day, and an exceptionally vicious one:

    Staten Island's famous groundhog, Charles G. Hogg, inexplicably bit Mayor Bloomberg during his annual holiday ceremony on Monday, drawing blood from the billionaire.
    Hmmm.... Sounds like Bloomberg may have been handling the angry grandpappy groundhog who used to bite Coco when she'd poke her nose into his lair....

    From a political standpoint, a good argument can be made that gun-grabbing billionaires like Bloomberg deserve to be bitten by groundhogs, but I'm not sure the marmot in question was politically astute enough to be thinking about the man's unconstitutional, regionally-bigoted war on guns (or even whether the new president wants to help enable such tactics).

    My worry is the weather.

    What are the implications? Ominous, I'd say, if 18 inches of snow in Indiana is any indication.

    Obviously, I have enough sense that I'll be taking the southern route (probably US 40), but that only remains southern as far as Missouri, and I have to head north.

    I've been trying without success to discover a southern route to the North, but the maps don't help.

    Any ideas?

    (I realize that if I head far enough South and hit Antarctica, I'll be headed North, but that's not a workable plan. There has to be a way....)

    posted by Eric at 12:08 PM | Comments (5)

    Direct Democracy

    The CHANGElings are out in force and full of HOPE. Finally the politicians are going to listen. Our Politician In Chief says so.
    "I will open the doors of government and ask you to be involved in our own democracy again.
    Well Mr. President Present (or absent as the case may be) we live in a Republic and in a republic the politicians don't have to pay any attention to the voters until election time. This has its good points and its bad points.

    Of course the words of the Smartest President Ever™ have gotten the HOPERS all excited.

    Hey, Changemakers. Welcome to the second half of the Ideas for Change in America project, where we aim to turn each of the 10 winning ideas from our competition into real legislative change.

    First, some context. We began this initiative in response to President Obama's call for greater citizen participation in government, and the outpouring of support has been overwhelming - including more than 675,000 votes on 7750 idea submissions in less than two months.

    The competition has also received nationwide attention and a welcome response from the Obama administration. At the event we held at the National Press Club just before the Inauguration to announce the 10 winners, Macon Phillips, Director of New Media for the White House, formally accepted the ideas and said that "I can speak with authority that a lot of people in the transition were paying attention to the competition."

    This process demonstrated the intense interest the American people have in directly engaging with their own government, and potential power of distributed social action.

    Yes. Wonderful distributed social action. I think distributed economic action undertaken by individual initiative works better.

    And remember all that blather about working closer with our allies. Well it is not working the way it was supposed to.

    A rift between the EU and US over how to deal with global trafficking in illicit drugs is undermining international efforts to agree a new UN strategy. The confrontation has been heightened because of suggestions that the US negotiating team is pushing a hardline, Bush administration "war on drugs", in contrast to the EU position which supports "Harm Reduction" measures such as needle exchanges.

    Talks are said to be at breaking point in Vienna where representatives have gathered to hammer out a new UN declaration in time for a signing ceremony at a drugs summit in mid-March. Negotiations, which have been going on for three months, are due to resume tomorrow with no indication of a breakthrough.

    At the heart of the dispute is whether a commitment to "harm reduction" should be included in the UN declaration of intent, which is published every 10 years. In 1998 the declaration was "a drug-free world - we can do it".

    EU countries, backed by Brazil and other Latin American countries, Australia and New Zealand, say even with the best of intentions the world will not be drug-free in 10 years and some commitment to tackling HIV and addiction through needle exchange programmes and methadone and other drugs should be included.

    I guess "Harm Reduction" is a better slogan than "a drug-free world - we can't do it". Evidently Mr. Obama still believes that after over 90 years of trying and failing that "Yes we can" must still be operative in the face of massive evidence to the contrary.

    H/T Colleen McCool and Jerry Epstein of DPF Texas

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:00 AM | Comments (1)

    Sex More Weeks Of Winter

    The groundhog has spoken.

    posted by Simon at 11:39 PM | Comments (2)

    How Government Killed Solar

    It looks like the solar bubble is about to burst.

    Bringing an end to eight consecutive years of growth, global revenue for photovoltaic (PV) panels is expected to drop by nearly 20 per cent in 2009, as a massive oversupply causes prices to decline.

    Worldwide revenue from shipments of panels will decline to $12.9 billion in 2009, down 19.1 per cent from $15.9 billion in 2008, according to iSuppli Corp. A drop of this magnitude has not occurred in the last 10 years and likely has not happened in the entire history of the solar industry.

    Now here is where the story gets good.
    "Supply and demand were already unbalanced in 2008 with 100 per cent more modules produced than installed," said Dr. Henning Wicht, senior director and principal analyst, photovoltaics for iSuppli. "The short-term boost in demand from Spain and Germany kept installation companies busy and solar orders and module prices high. But this boom is over. In 2009, average prices for panels for new installation contracts will collapse to the $2.50 to $2.75 per watt range by the end of 2009, down from the current level of $4.20 per watt. The average price for the year will be $3.10 per watt."

    Ironically, the oversupply and resulting pricing and revenue declines are the consequence of the overwhelming success of the solar industry.

    "Due to the political impetus to save fossil energy resources, both for carbon dioxide emissions and to prepare the future energy infrastructure, solar demand has been booming,"

    Get that? Solar is not an energy market. It is a political market. And once the political capital is gone the money dries up. The only way to make solar a real market is to get the cost below that of alternatives or provide advantages that outweigh the extra cost. Take solar garden lights. Their advantage even if they cost more than the alternative is ease of installation. But to move massive quantities of solar they are going to have to come down to the $1 a watt range - installed. That means cells costing 50¢ a watt. We have a ways to go for that. The nice thing is that we are now in striking distance, in the home stretch. It is no longer several orders of magnitude of cost reductions required. Just a factor of four or five. We will probably cover that ground in 5 to 15 years. Depending on whether we have to grind out improvements or we get lucky.

    Ah. But all is not lost. Maybe an American politician will come to the rescue.

    U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday (Jan. 28) met with business leaders to discuss the economic stimulus bill.

    One member of the group, Mike Splinter, president and CEO of Applied Materials Inc., urged Obama to move full speed ahead on a push towards a ''green economy.'' This includes incentives for solar energy adoption as a way to create new jobs as the new administration seeks to jumpstart the slumping U.S. economy.

    The $825 billion stimulus bill is expected to move ahead in the House, but Republican support is unclear. Applied is urging quick action on Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, especially in clean technology. Applied is the world's largest supplier of fab gear, but it is seeing huge growth in the solar segment.

    I think he should have said "saw". With production better than 2 1/2 times demand I can't see the need for a lot of new production capacity at this time. And why does the government need to pour money into this technology? Because at current prices it is an unsustainable industry.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
    IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

    posted by Simon at 01:17 PM | Comments (5)

    Stagflation And Inconvenient Debt

    We are at the point right now where the increased money supply looks like an increase in real demand. In 12 to 18 months price inflation will kick in. Then all hell will break loose.

    Had the money supply been increased by giving the money to profitable producers a lot of the damage would have been averted. But most of the "stimulus" is going to consumers. Very bad move.

    I predicted stagflation several months ago. I'm holding to that prediction more than ever. There was a book by economist Robert J. Samuelson, The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath: The Past and Future of American Affluence, describing the period from 1960 to 1982. And how did we finally escape the inflation trap? We elected an economist as President and that President said: goose the producers. Otherwise known as supply side economics. And we have had 30+ years of good production since. All that is about to end. For a while. Maybe a long while if the Democrats stay in power long enough. Without a revolutionary kick to the economy it will take a long time to digest the new mountain of debt.

    Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
    IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

    H/T joedead at Talk Polywell

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:16 PM | Comments (10)

    Atlas Is Shrugging

    First a couple of books mentioned in the video: Atlas Shrugged and The Road to Serfdom

    Stephen Moore, who you saw in the video, started the ruckus with the article in the Wall Street Journal called Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years.

    Some years ago when I worked at the libertarian Cato Institute, we used to label any new hire who had not yet read "Atlas Shrugged" a "virgin." Being conversant in Ayn Rand's classic novel about the economic carnage caused by big government run amok was practically a job requirement. If only "Atlas" were required reading for every member of Congress and political appointee in the Obama administration. I'm confident that we'd get out of the current financial mess a lot faster.

    Many of us who know Rand's work have noticed that with each passing week, and with each successive bailout plan and economic-stimulus scheme out of Washington, our current politicians are committing the very acts of economic lunacy that "Atlas Shrugged" parodied in 1957, when this 1,000-page novel was first published and became an instant hit.

    Rand, who had come to America from Soviet Russia with striking insights into totalitarianism and the destructiveness of socialism, was already a celebrity. The left, naturally, hated her. But as recently as 1991, a survey by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club found that readers rated "Atlas" as the second-most influential book in their lives, behind only the Bible.

    For the uninitiated, the moral of the story is simply this: Politicians invariably respond to crises -- that in most cases they themselves created -- by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs . . . and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism.

    And the take over of our economy need not be by nationalization. Ownership need not change hands. All that is required is "regulation".

    Here is what commenter John Lynch had to say at the Classical values post Obama's Plan For Failure.

    There is no plan to "recover" the US economy. There is a plan to transform US economics. The transformation requires that capitalism bow to statism. Private enterprise is secondary to the state, as is individual enterprise, innovation, and flow of capital.

    Hence, most investors are pulling their money from the market. Redemptions far exceed losses from major funds and stocks. People are pulling their money from the market. Funds are gong under not because of losses but because of redemptions.

    Further, most corporations are pulling back rather than investing in great buying opportunities: equipment, factories, and inventories.

    Every industry that anticipates heavy government involvement, solicited or undesired, expects a lack of oxygen - a lack of business opportunity and freedom to profit - thus retrenches. Examples include auto, airlines, aircraft manufacturing, defense, healthcare, finance, and banking. Together these industries comprise more than 50% of what we had called private enterprise, even though they were heavily regulated before the latest round.

    Now, in the name of economic stimulus, these industries, and more, will be minor players in a government run set of directives, funded by and controlled by US regulators already shown to be both uncaring of economic reality but also corrupt in appointing overseers for political gain.

    Welcome to Change (tm).

    It is the administration's interest to ensure that we, the people, recognize that this transformation will take years, and that we should not expect the stimulus package to yield results within the next couple of years.

    Never mind that every other stimuli package that worked took months, not years to produce results - except that of Roosevelt, New Deal Creator, that showed only extended depression until events overtook policy after WWII.

    Buckle down. Convert your assets. Find jobs with economic value, not services oriented.

    Events will eventfully overcome this situation. Politics will not.

    Sounds like pretty good advice.

    In any case it leads us to the underground economy.

    The underground economy or black market is a market consisting of all commerce on which applicable taxes and/or regulations of trade are being avoided. The term is also often known as the underdog, shadow economy, black economy or parallel economy.

    In modern societies the underground economy covers a vast array of activities. It is generally smallest in countries where economic freedom is greatest, and becomes progressively larger in those areas where corruption, regulation, or legal monopolies restrict legitimate economic activity.

    Untaxed and unregulated. So how big is the underground economy?
    Some economists estimate that the underground economy in the United States alone accounts for up to 1 trillion US Dollars (USD) per year in unreported cash holdings.
    So there you have it. If you want to be untaxed and unregulated go underground. More and more people every day are shrugging off government by doing just that. As that mafia guys like to say, "It's just business."

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?
    IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

    posted by Simon at 10:10 AM | Comments (5)

    Superconductor Generators For Wind

    American Superconductor is making 100 superconducting generator sets for China.

    DEVENS, Mass. --Jan. 22, 2009--American Superconductor Corporation, a leading energy technologies company, today announced that it has received a multi-million-dollar order for 100 sets of its wind turbine core electrical components from China's CSR Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive Research Institute Co.(CSR-ZELRI), Ltd. The company will use the components in 1.65 megawatt (MW) wind turbines designed by AMSC's wholly owned AMSC Windtec™ subsidiary. Under the terms of the contract, AMSC expects to ship all of the core electrical components by the end of calendar 2009 to support CSR-ZELRI's increased production of wind turbines.

    AMSC's core electrical components include the company's proprietary PowerModule™ PM3000W power converter and enable reliable, high-performance wind turbine operation by controlling power flows, regulating voltage, monitoring system performance and controlling the pitch of wind turbine blades to maximize efficiency. Introduced in late 2008, the PM3000W is a fully programmable, flexible and modular power converter developed specifically for wind turbines with power ratings up to 6 MW.

    The advantage of superconducting generators is that they weigh less. And the less the weight at the top of the tower the less material that is needed to make the tower. Doing more with less. Since capital costs are a very big component of the cost of wind energy lowering them lowers the cost of wind energy.

    China has big plans for wind.

    According to the Chinese Wind Energy Association [written in Chinese], China will grow its base of wind power from 5.9 gigawatts (GW) at the end of 2007 to more 10 gigawatts in 2008. In its Global Wind Energy Outlook 2008 report, the Global Wind Energy Council estimates that China's installed base could grow to 101 GW by 2020 under its "moderate" outlook scenario and 201 GW under its "advanced" scenario.
    I think you have to divide those numbers by 3 to get the average power output. So 101 GW installed is equal to about 33 - 1 GW coal or nuclear plants. Not bad.

    According to the Global Wind Energy Outlook 2008 report about 30% of the US investment in new electrical generating capacity is going into wind. And Turkey is ordering wind turbines like crazy. Wind is an excellent hedge against rising natural gas prices as the two types of generation are complimentary.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    Update: 02 Feb. 2009 02:41z

    Commenter Keith at Power and Control says there are no superconductors involved. He is right. I let my wishful thinking run away with me. He does say AMSC is developing a 10 MW generator for offshore wind. Something I would not have known without my error. A 10 MW job is just about the limit with current blade technology. So that is very welcome news.

    posted by Simon at 08:47 AM | Comments (3)

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